Saturday 17th March

In the morning, we went for some late soup breakfast with Hayley and Ross but the woman doing the soup didn’t have any left, so we got some fruits instead in the street and headed to internet for an hour, spending 30 minutes opening the mailbox, and 5 minutes on each email. Really annoying. Then we checked out, and walked about 15 minutes to the travel agency selling the bus tickets. We went for some lunch and drinks nearby for an hour and came back. We joined a pick-up to the main bus station. At the entrance of our bus were some people selling a few stuff:


We didn’t wait long and the bus left. We discovered something funny about Burmese people. They love karaoke, as do the Khmer people, but the one they fancy the most is really young children singing!

children singing

On our way to Hsipaw, there was a car completely burned that firemen were trying to stop. We don’t know what happened exactly, and if any people died or what, but that was quite impressive in itself.

burnt car

Then just a few minutes later, we saw a quite big procession of people going on, with beautifully dressed women first, then others carrying baskets following, and some couples on horses, and some cars highly decorated behind. Probably a wedding procession.


We started noticing the fog while going up to Hsipaw, and started looking more closely to the trees on the hills, wondering about deforestation. The weather became more and more foggy, and the sun at sunset was incredibly red, from a red due to fog. The landscape was quite hilly.


We also noticed a black pipe from far and imagined it was a gaz pipe but from where to where, we didn’t know yet. We got to Hsipaw. It was quite chilly there, we had to add on light jumpers. We checked in the hotel we had booked (we had learned the lesson from Yangoon, and booked this time.)

Then we went for some diner nearby. We ran again into the Scottish girls and into Mike the Scottish guy. The three of them had been to Lashio that day to see Ang San Suu Kyi who was giving a speech. Damn it, we missed that! It sounded incredible, and they had cool pictures of the atmosphere there. I really wish we had known and arrived one day before to see her too. She is to Burma what Gandhi is to India, and Mandela to South Africa.

I asked Mike to narrate me the day.

Here is what he told me: “I want for breakfast in the guesthouse in Hsipaw and there were the 2 Scottish girls there and I had breakfast with them. A pick-up and a bus arrived on the main road nearby and parked there and at the back of the pick-up there was a big sound system broadcoasting rock music. One of the guys working at the guest house told us that if we wanted to come to see Ang San Suu Kyi today, she was in Lashio. So we decided to go. It took about an hour and half. It was in a park where they had set a stage with 2 posters of Ang San Suu Kyi on both sides. The atmosphere was getting electric. People had NLD stickers on their cheeks, there was music everywhere, everyone was happy and you could feel how much hope she gives to people. It felt like being at a music festival, except people were not on drugs, and that it was much more important than a simple music festival for the Burmese people being here and waiting for this huge change to come in their country.

waiting for Aung San Suu Kyi

Photo: Lashio’s meeting with Ang San Suu Kyi. Copyright Michael Steven.

The organisers got people to come dance on the stage and sing, and were singing about Ang San Suu Kyi progress on arriving. “She is at the airport, she is on her way, she is having lunch, she will be soon here. That was warming up the atmosphere and people were getting more excited. More and more people were arriving. The place was packed with thousands of people.

waiting for Aung San Suu Kyi

Photo: Lashio’s meeting with Ang San Suu Kyi. Copyright Michael Steven.

She arrived about three hours later in a convoy and was walking with a blue umbrella that you could see moving to the stage. While she got to the stage, everyone got crazy.

Aung San Suu Kyi in Lashio

Photo: Lashio’s meeting with Ang San Suu Kyi. Copyright Michael Steven.

People were screaming, crying, chanting. She spoke for about an hour. Although we couldn’t understand anything, she really had a great presence on scene.  It felt like she was speaking one to one to each person. She had a huge smile on her face while talking. She cracked a lot of jokes, people laughed. The only word we could understand was “democracy”. Some girl explained us that at one point she was talking about the identity card and how difficult it was to get an id for minorities and how she wanted this to change. Then she finished talking, left and then everyone slowly left the park. We felt really good and excited too. We had connected with many people we spoke to and they were really happy that some foreigners were there. It was incredible to be there and see this atmosphere and be able to see her, and see how things were changing in Burma.”

This was Michael Steven from Scotland speaking on pomenvadrouilleblog.
Photos of the event full copyright Michael Steven. Thank you.

Sunday 18th March

I learned a new word that day. Bloated. My stomach was bloated, completely bloated (gonflé). I still had the diarrhoea I had since a few days. There was a cool family of French people I chatted with, Guy-Luc, who had been a fireman and had taken an early retirement, and his wife Seed (pronounce Swede) and their 2 kids Francesca 9 years old and Diego 7 years old. They were really cool. Suede gave me some extra-medication to fight the diarrhea. That still didn’t prevent me from going for a walk with Michael, Hayley and Ross. With Michael, we would have loved to do a 2-day trek or more to go see the Palaung village but my stomach went against it. The city of Hsipaw was interested in itself anyway. After 5minutes walking away from the hotel, we stepped upon drying noodles stalls. You would think these are soft but they are quite hard when you touch them.


We walked a bit more and found the black pipe again. We actually walked on it, to cross a river and kept walking on it for a while, as it was quite convenient to move quickly and hey if we can walk on a gaz pipe here, why not, this is cool. I had never walked on a gaz pipe. I guess in our European countries, they are either hidden or protected and it is harder to do it.  You do get a great view from it actually, as it is about 2 meters high.


At some point, we went down, and went left, through a village. That’s where we learned why no one was answering our “Mingalaba!”. People here speak the Chan language, and a monk taught us that to say hello we have to say “Messunka!”. We spent some time there with the locals, communicating with smiles and hand gesture. Here is a portrait of a beautiful Chan woman we ran into.

Chan woman

We stopped for some drinks nearby. In a normal world, we would have all being up for a normal lunch. But with the heat and the smog dust smell, and some sickness in most of our stomachs, no one was up for anything except some sugar drinks, and me for tea and the local toilets. We ran into one guy who is actually a guide of Hsipaw, and who pointed to us one picture of the Lonely Planet of his aunt and nephew. That was cool. He explained us that the black pipe is made and sponsored by China to buy Burmese gaz and carry it from the South Sea of Burma to China. China is actually building a second pipe to take the oil of Burma to China too. Quite interesting.

After this break, we slowly walked back and saw an artisanal peanut oil making factory.

peanut factory

Then we arrived at the rails while the 2 guys in charge of the rails were getting ready for closing it for the train of the day to arrive.

waiting for the train

We just waited there with them for the train. At first, by the way they were seated on the rail, we thought they new from the sound of the rails when the train was coming, so we even put our bare feet and ear to the rail to check that out. But communicating further with them, with gestures, we actually realised they just knew out of their watch what time the train would be coming ahah. And the train going to Lashio arrived. After it had gone through, we walked to the railstation which was only 5 minutes walk away actually and where it had stopped and photographed the people of the train.

people of the train

We spent some time there, joking with the people of the train. I especially had fun with these three kids and their mum.

children of the train

It was very funny to be foreigners in a railstation, on the pier, saying goodbye to locals who were on a train. A fun situation. I almost felt emotive and sad about saying good-bye and waving to so many people suddenly. I don’t like good-byes.

After that, I was knacked and went for a shower and a chat and reading books borrowed from the hotel library with the French family. Guy-Luc was teaching Francesca about the trees, about how important trees are for the atmosphere, and how they absorb the dioxide of carbon we release and release oxygen we need. He was explaining her in such a beautiful way, in a place so appropriate, where deforestation has gone mad, that it was really really powerful.  “You see these trees around, Francesca? They are born from a tiny seed, which got bigger thanks to water, and sun. The leaves of these trees breathe in the dioxine of carbon and release oxygen. This is called photo-synthesis. “ Francesca: “But dad, why are trees so important?” Guy-Luc: “Without trees, the earth would die. The oxygen they release is essential to the balance of the atmosphere and to us, in order to breathe but they are important for much more other things, to keep the soil together for example or give shelter and food to animals, and they are essential for plenty of other things.”

The thing is Hsipaw is smoggy because of deforestation. Hearing that conversation of a dad teaching the essential role of trees on Earth to her daughter right there almost made me cry. It was beautiful. Here is the sunset, a beautiful red sun, due to the smog created by the deforestation going around.

red sun

I was knacked, and weak, and went to bed early. Michael had gone for some beers with Ross, and I suspected him to be on a last-minute birthday gifts hunt, which I was curious to know more about the next day. 🙂

Monday 19th March

Today I am 29 years old for the second time…Alright…30 years old. Am I really? Mmmm…We started the morning with a breakfast where Michael offered me a beautiful banana cake with candles and several beautiful little gifts. Great start for a special day.

30 years old

Then we headed to the river to meet with Ross and Hayley there. On our way to there, there were women putting fruits, water and sugar in huge jars to marinate them. Hey, maybe that’s what the jars of the mysterious plain of Jars in Lao were for?

fruit jars

We had some lemongrass tea and chat with Ross and Hayley while looking at the river and the foggy landscape.


We had some light lunch at Mr Food, and when the waiter opened the Star coke bottles we ordered with the special Burmese bottle-opener they have, I asked if I could have one too, because it is really cool, and that it was my birthday, and at the end of the meal he came back with one for me! Burma offered me a beautiful gift on my birthday. Yeah!

Then the four of us decided to go to see some waterfall we had heard of. For that, we first walked through a cemetery. What a symbolic thing on a birthday to go through a cemetery, something which reminds you how short life is and that we will all die one day. The Chinese graves were quite interesting, although the amount of garbage you find nearby is really appalling.

Chinese graves

Behind the cemetery was the worst landscape I have gone through in my life. We arrived right where things were being burnt.

Burning Burma

The trees downhill had been burnt too. It was really a landscape of desolation.

Sad Burma

It was really foggy, the air was hard to breathe, there was no birds but only the sound of the cracking wood or other things on fire, and the ashes were falling on us from the sky from all over the place. The sun was hidden by a cloud of dirty smoke.

sun and dirt

We found the black pipe again and followed it down the valley.

The Black Pipe

We passed through water melon and melon crops.

melon crops

There were some men digging the stream, maybe to simply enlarge it.


We passed through a very small village, crossed a small river, saw a mum’s buffalo and her kid, and finally arrived to the wonderful waterfall.


There was maybe one further with water, but at that stage we couldn’t bother walking longer and headed back. We were sick of this polluted air and ashes falling on us. On the way back, we ran into one of the worker who was digging the stream wider before.


While passing through the small village again, we saw some people there washing.


We followed the black pipe back to where we had been the day before, following a similar way back to the hotel. During the day, my stomach which had been quiet in the morning was bloated again. We still went for a birthday beer, but then said good-byes and went back to the hotel where I was in  bed around 9.30pm! Hsipaw was definitely not the most beautiful place neither the healthiest one where to celebrate a birthday, but it was still interesting to see, especially to understand about the massive deforestation going on right now in Burma, and its consequences. However, we couldn’t stand breathing this air one more day, and decided to leave the next morning.

Next stop: Mandalay again, and then Bagan!